December 19 President of Russia Vladimir Putin must fly to Minsk for negotiations with the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko. Putin and Lukashenka meet very often, but the Russian president has not been in Belarus itself for three years. And it is this circumstance that raises the question for many: is Putin going to force the Belarusian dictator to directly participate in the war against Ukraine.
The very formulation of such a question is already beyond political logic. If Putin needed to increase pressure on Lukashenka, he would be much more comfortable doing it on his own territory, and not in Belarus.
The Russian president has a lot of opportunities to invite his Belarusian colleague to visit again and again, but Lukashenko has no opportunity to refuse Putin’s invitations, he completely depends from the political and economic support of Moscow.
Then why is Putin flying to Minsk
Firstly, there are not so many places for official visits to Putin, and “state activity” must be portrayed. Each such visit is for Putin a demonstration that Russia’s international isolation has failed, and right now Russian leaders are talking to “true friends.” And Lukashenka is generally friend number one.
Secondly, Lukashenka himself needs Putin’s visit.
After the rigged 2020 presidential election and the crackdown on popular protests, Lukashenka has even bigger legitimacy problems than Putin.
Lukashenka is not recognized as the President of Belarus by most states of the civilized world, even their ambassadors do not present credentials to him. Putin’s visit to Minsk is another “demonstration of legitimacy”, a visit of “the president to the president”.
Well, Lukashenka can also demonstrate that he is still not the head of a subject of the Russian Federation, but the head of a real state, to which Putin himself comes on a visit. So we can consider this trip of the Russian president to the Belarusian capital as Putin’s New Year’s gift to his closest ally in this brutal war of conquest.
Thirdly, there is indeed a psychological component to this visit. If Kyiv really fears a new Russian attack on the Ukrainian capital this winter and the participation of the Belarusian army in this attack, then each new contact between the Belarusian and Russian rulers, especially in Minsk, brings the possibility of such an attack closer. Let them worry in Kyiv, Putin loves to create such causes for concern, for him this is also a “special operation.”
Both dictators’ hatred for Ukraine
And that is why Putin’s next trip should not be taken as a political sensation.
For Ukraine, the very tandem of Putin and Lukashenko is dangerous: the hatred of both dictators for Ukraine and their readiness to use force to try to prevent Ukrainians from building their own state.
But against this background, Putin’s visit to Minsk remains more a tribute to protocol than an event designed to change the course of the war.
Specially for Radio Liberty
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